Every grave tells a story…
By Orrin Grey
Every grave is a story waiting to be told. Most of these stories are prosaic enough, and are often represented by the carvings on the headstones themselves: father, brother, daughter, wife.
Some graves, however, contain far more unusual stories, and some are still mysteries waiting to be solved. Here are six graves with some of the strangest stories we have ever encountered…
The Black Angel of Oakland Cemetery
We’ve already reported on the striking Black Angel statue that haunts Iowa City’s Oakland Cemetery. The Black Angel is said to possess the power to kill anyone who kisses (or in some cases touches) it, but its strange history bears repeating in this list. The bronze statue is said to have turned black overnight, though the supposed reasons vary—from a lightning strike to a mark of its owner’s infidelity. Whatever the case, the shadow of the Black Angel statue makes a chilling monument indeed.
The Grave in the Parking Lot
Mary Ellis was buried in 1828 in the Ellis family plot on a wooded hillside overlooking the Raritan River in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The story of her life was a sad one. Apparently, she had fallen in love with a sea captain who had promised to come back and marry her. Alas, the captain never returned. Mary never let go of the memory of her lost love. Upon her death, she was buried at the spot where she waited faithfully for her lover to return.
Nearly 200 years later, she’s still there, though now the surrounding land has been turned into a parking lot for a series of retail outlets: most recently, an AMC Theater and a Famous Dave’s Restaurant. Ever since the area was re-graded for parking, the grave, undisturbed and surrounded by a chain link fence, has stood atop a seven-foot-high pedestal of earth in the middle of the lot.
The Grave in the Middle of the Road
County Road 400 in Indiana has long taken an odd detour around the grave of Nancy Barnett, whose relatives didn’t want her grave disturbed when the county decided to put the road through the area surrounding her burial plot.
After a tense standoff, the county ultimately split the road, with a lane running on either side of her grave. What became a tourist landmark recently took on a more mysterious quality, however, when archaeologists exhumed the grave and found the remains of at least six other people—a total of two women, one of whom was presumably Nancy Barnett, a man, and four children—whose origins and identities remain unknown.
Victim of the Beast
At a glance, the grave of Lilly E. Gray in Salt Lake City, Utah looks fairly unassuming. Yet beneath her name and the date of her birth and death is a mysterious and sinister inscription, “Victim of the Beast 666.”
While such an inscription seems like it must carry one whopper of a story, nobody seems to know what it is. Though the graveyard in which the stone rests is filled with other tall tales—including the legend of “Emo’s Grave,” supposedly the resting place of a serial killer or child molester who can be summoned by walking around the grave three times—no one seems to know much about Lilly E. Gray or the strange legend carved into her headstone.
The Jewett City Vampires
In the old Jewett City Cemetery of Griswold, Connecticut you can still find a line of largely nondescript tombstones dating from the 1840s and 1850s. Though not much to look at, these tombstones tell a strange story indeed.
Beginning in the late 1840s, Henry Ray and three of his adult sons all died within a few years of a mysterious wasting illness that was probably tuberculosis. At the time, however, it was believed to be the work of vampires, and at least two of the bodies were exhumed and burned on the spot. This event found its way into the papers of the time, leaving the family known as the Jewett City Vampires.
The Moving Caskets of the Chase Vault
In 1812, the Chase family vault in Barbados was opened for the burial of Thomas Chase. Three of his female relatives had already been laid to rest inside the vault. Afterward, it was sealed with concrete and left undisturbed.
And yet, when the vault was opened for Thomas Chase, the coffins were found “in a confused state, having been apparently tossed from their places.” The vault was opened again later for the burial of an infant, and once again the same phenomenon was discovered.
Each time, the coffins were placed back in their resting places. Yet each time caretaker’s reopened the vault, the coffins were found in disarray. The story goes that this continued until all the coffins were finally removed from the vault and buried elsewhere in 1820. The vault has remained unsealed and untenanted ever since.